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How and when to take a probiotic

When Should You Take a Probiotic?

Probiotics are one of the few health supplements that actually work, and they provide many benefits for your overall health. Probiotics help maintain a strong immune system by increasing the number of good bacteria in your gut. In turn, a healthy immune system helps your body ward off disease, making probiotics beneficial for both your digestive system and overall health. That’s why doctors like myself recommend them worldwide.

While there are numerous benefits of probiotics, we first need to understand what they are and how they establish themselves into our gut.

To begin, note an important fact: many people don’t realize that probiotics are not man-made, although there are man-made probiotics which are used in probiotic supplements. In fact, we, as humans, have been taking probiotics for thousands of years!

Every civilization around the world struggled to preserve food before we created refrigeration and other modern methods of food preservation. Each of those civilizations discovered that fermenting food could make it last longer. For example, foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and even fermented pickled vegetables contain probiotics. Simply put, if you alter your diet to consume large quantities of fermented foods – you probably wouldn’t need to take probiotic supplements at all.

Your Stomach is a Problem

Both natural probiotics and probiotic supplements contain live beneficial bacteria. However, before probiotics from either food or supplements can help you, the beneficial bacteria must live and thrive in your gut.

A certain number of bacteria live in your stomach, but the vast majority of probiotic bacteria live in the lower portions of our Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract; specifically, your large and small intestines. To reach their ideal final destinations, the probiotic bacteria have to pass through your stomach and survive the acids it creates to break down food.

Our stomachs produce acid to “digest” the food we eat so the nutrients contained in food can be absorbed by your intestines. Unfortunately, your stomach acid will kill most bacteria, both good and bad, so it’s critical that beneficial probiotic bacteria are protected as they pass through the stomach.

EndoMune Advanced Probiotics have a special capsule designed to resist stomach acid and deliver as much probiotic as possible to your lower GI tract.

Some people try to thwart the stomach acid problem by taking probiotics with a meal, and we do lean towards that idea, but only if it’s a light meal. We don’t suggest taking probiotics with heavy meals because heavy meals take longer to digest, and actually might subject any beneficial probiotic bacteria to stomach acid for a longer period of time. In other words, heavier meals take longer to digest, trapping any probiotic bacteria in an acid bath for a longer period, making them more vulnerable.

The answer to the question of how to take a probiotic is actually another question – when is the best TIME to take a probiotic?

The Best Time to Take a Probiotic

When you take a probiotic will vary depending on your age and health. Another important factor to consider is why you originally began taking probiotics. For example, if you suffer from diarrhea or bloating, you gain the most benefit from probiotics by taking supplements at every meal.

If you have trouble staying asleep, the best time to take beneficial bacteria is right before bed. Did you know there is a proven connection between your gut and your liver? That means people with liver issues tend to have more insomnia than those with healthy livers.

Nevertheless, for most of us, the ideal time to take probiotics is 30 minutes before breakfast. Arguably, breakfast is the one meal we eat every day, at the same time, which makes it an ideal time to take your probiotic since you can easily fit it into your routine. Since breakfast often includes a fatty food like milk, muffins, or eggs and bacon, the probiotics better survive your stomach acid and find the lower portions of your gastrointestinal tract, where they do their best work. That’s why breakfast is an excellent choice.

If you’re not a fan of breakfast, you should consider your personal circadian rhythm to help determine what is the best time for you to take probiotics. We discussed previously why breakfast-eaters may benefit more by taking probiotics in the morning, but taking probiotics at night may be just as effective for night owls. In fact, research suggests that the bacteria in our gut directly affects our circadian rhythm. You can read more about probiotics and your circadian clock in a previous blog here:

Despite any personal nuance to when your absolute best time to take a probiotic, there are some general guidelines below you can use as a starting point to gain the most benefits from your probiotics.

For Healthy Adults

Take a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic consistently on an empty stomach at least a half-hour before eating your first meal of the day. This allows most of the beneficial bacteria to survive when stomach acid levels are lower as they travel to your gut.

For Healthy Kids

From infants to toddlers up to age 3, I recommend giving these small children a probiotic in a powdered form like EndoMune Jr. Advanced Probiotic Powder. Sprinkle one half-teaspoon of this powder on soft foods, in a formula, or in a non-carbonated liquid.

For children from ages 3-8, taking a probiotic in a tablet form designed specifically for this age group should be an easy way to ensure they have happy, healthy guts too. EndoMune Jr. Advanced Chewable Probiotic is a perfect way to deliver beneficial probiotics to your children in this age group.

Taking a Probiotic When You’re Sick

Taking a probiotic when you are sick is one of the best things you can do to give your immune system a boost, especially when your doctor prescribes an antibiotic. If you’re taking an antibiotic you’ve taken repeatedly in the past, you’ll gain even more benefits from probiotics.

Antibiotics can wipe out the good bacteria in your gut, allowing the less desired bacteria to hang around. In worst case examples, bad bacteria can proliferate, and perhaps even thrive resulting in serious health problems like grave Clostridium difficule (C. diff) superbug infections that can be deadly.

When you’re taking an antibiotic, it’s important to give your probiotic at least a two-hour head start to give those beneficial bacteria the best chance to reach and protect your gut.

Talk to your doctor first!

Before you begin taking a probiotic, be sure to talk to your doctor about any health concerns you may have. Consulting your physician is critical if you are taking certain drugs, like an immunosuppressants or antifungals. Knowing how and when to take a probiotic can dramatically affect how well they work.

If you’ve tried probiotics before and were less than impressed with your results, try taking them again and stay consistent with some of the tips mentioned above. You want to ensure you are not losing some or most of the probiotic and prebiotics benefits before they had a chance to reach your GI tract. That’s essentially the only way to really see if they will improve both your gut and overall health.

Frontiers in Pharmacology

Beneficial Microbes

Nature Reviews

American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy

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